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Rates of flaring in individual active regions on the Sun during the period 1981–1999 are examined using United States Air Force/Mount Wilson (USAF/MWL) active-region observations together with the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite (GOES) soft X-ray flare catalog. Of the flares in the catalog above C1 class, 61.5% are identified with an active region. Evidence is presented for obscuration, i.e. that the increase in soft X-ray flux during a large flare decreases the likelihood of detection of soft X-ray events immediately following the large flare. This effect means that many events are missing from the GOES catalog. It is estimated that in the absence of obscuration the number of flares above C1 class would be higher by (75±23) %. A second observational selection effect – an increased tendency for larger flares to be identified with an active region – is also identified. The distributions of numbers of flares produced by individual active regions and of mean flaring rate among active regions are shown to be approximately exponential, although there are excess numbers of active regions with low flare numbers and low flaring rates. A Bayesian procedure is used to analyze the time history of the flaring rate in the individual active regions. A substantial number of active regions appear to exhibit variation in flaring rate during their transit of the solar disk. Examples are shown of regions with and without rate variation, illustrating the different distributions of times between events (waiting-time distributions) that are observed. A piecewise constant Poisson process is found to provide a good model for the observed waiting-time distributions. Finally, applications of analysis of the rate of flaring to understanding the flare mechanism and to flare prediction are discussed.

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